Parley P. Pratt et al., “‘The Mormons’ So Called,” 12 December 1833
, , and , “‘The Mormons’ So Called,” 12 Dec. 1833, The Evening and the Morning Star, extra, Feb. 1834, two pages.
Community violence against Mormon settlers in , Missouri, escalated on 20 July 1833. In , the brick home of was torn down and the church’s printing press was thrown out of a second-story window. That month’s issue of the church newspaper The Evening and the Morning Star was the last published in , and the collection of revelations known as the Book of Commandments, then being printed, would never be completed.
By September 1833 the church moved to reestablish a press in the charge of —this time located at its other center at , Ohio. Among the first items published there was a February 1834 broadsheet titled “‘The Mormons’ So Called,” which apparently reprinted an earlier published account of the “outrages.” The earlier text was a December 1833 handbill probably printed in , Missouri, at the shop of the Upper Missouri Enquirer—possibly, and if so, ironically, on ’s press acquired by the Enquirer after the 20 July riot. The broadsheet, printed as an “Extra” to the Kirtland-based The Evening and the Morning Star, included some additional editorial comments from Oliver Cowdery as editor. (Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:42.)
“‘The Mormons’ So Called” presented a detailed account of the eruption of conflict and violence in beginning in 1832, which culminated in the Saints’ agreement to leave the county by April 1834, with most fleeing to neighboring . The account was signed by three prominent Mormon Missouri leaders, , , and . Pratt, who may have been the author of the document, drew upon its content for his 1839 publication, History of the Late Persecution, which in turn formed the basis for his 1840 expansion, Late Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints.
The original December 1833 handbill is no longer extant. The document featured here is the February 1834 broadsheet “Extra” to The Evening and the Morning Star, which includes ’s editorial additions.
teen men volunteered, and started for their assistance; but discovering, that fifty or sixty of the mob, had gathered at said Wilson’s, they turned back. At this time, two small boys passed on their way to Wilson’s who gave information to the mob, that the Mormons were on the road west of them. Between forty and fifty of the mob, immediately started on horseback and foot with guns, in pursuit; and after riding about two, or two and a half miles, they discovered them, when the said company of nineteen, immediately dispersed, and fled in different directions: The mob hunted them, turning their horses into a cornfield, belonging to this people, searching their cornfields and houses, threatening women and children that they would pull down their houses and kill them if they did not tell where the men had fled. Thus, they were employed, in hunting the men, and threatning the women; until a company of thirty of the Mormons, from the prairie, armed with seventeen guns, made their appearance. The former company of nineteen had dispersed, and fled, and but one or two of them, had returned to take part in the subsequent battle. On the approach of this latter company of thirty men, some of the mob cried, “fire, G—d d—n you, fire.” Two or three guns were then fired by the mob, which were returned by the other party without loss of time. The public will here remark, that this company is the same, that is represented by the mob, as having gone forth in the evening of the battle bearing the olive branch of peace. The mob retreated early after the first fire, leaving some of their horses in Whitmer’s cornfield; and two of their number, , and Thomas Linvill, dead on the ground. Thus fell , one who, a few days before, had been heard to say, “with ten fellows, I will wade to my knees in blood, but that I will drive the Mormons from . Early the next morning, a respectable woman passed over the battle ground, and discovered the corpse of the said with a gun by his side. Several were wounded on both sides, but none mortally, except one Barber, on the part of the Mormons, who expired the next day. This battle was fought about sunset, Monday November the fourth; & the same night, runners were dispatched in every direction under pretence of calling out—the militia; spreading as they went, ever rumor calculated to alarm and excite the unwary; such as that the Mormons had taken , and the Indians had surrounded it, being colleagued together &c. The same evening November fourth, not being satisfied with breaking open the store of & ; and demolishing a part of the dwelling house of said , the Friday night before; they permitted the said , who was detected on friday night, as one of the number breaking in the doors of the store; to take out a warrant, and arrest the said , and others of the church, for a pretended assault, and false imprisonment of the said . Late in the evening, while the court were proceeding with their trial, in the court house, a gentleman unconnected with the court, as was believed, perceiving the prisoners to be without counsel, and in imminent danger, advised said and his brethren, to elect for jail, as the only alternative to save life: for the north dore was already barred, and an infuriated mob thronged the house, with a determination to beat and kill; but through the interposition of this gentleman, said and four of his brethren were committed to the county Jail of , the dungeon of which, must have been a palace, compared to a court room, where dignity and mercy were strangers; and naught but the wrath of man, in horrid threats, stifled the ears of the prisoners. The same night the said , , and , were liberated from jail, that they might have an interview with their brethren; and try to negotiate some measures for peace; and on their return to jail, about 2 o’clock Tuesday morning, in custody of the deputy sheriff, an armed force, of six or seven men, stood near the jail, and hailed; they were answered by the sheriff, who gave his name, and the names of his prisoners, crying, “dont fire, dont fire, the prisoners are in my charge,” &c. They however fired one or two guns, when and retreated; but stood, with several guns presented at him. Two, more desparate than the rest, attempted to shoot, but one of their guns flashed, and the other missed fire. Said was then knocked down by Thomas Wilson, a grocer in the village. About this time, a few of the inhabitants arrived; and again entered jail, from which, he, with three of his brethren, were liberated about sunrise, without farther prosecution of the trial. On the morning of Tuesday, fifth of November, the began to be crowded with individuals from different parts of the , with guns, &c. and report said, the militia had been called out, under the sanction, or instigation of ; and that one had the command. Among this militia (so called,) were embodied the most conspicuous characters of the mob; and it may truly be said, that the appearance of the ranks of this body, was well calculated to excite suspicions of their honorable designs. Very early on the same morning, several branches of the church received intelligence, that a number of their brethren were in prison, and the determination of the mob was to kill them; and, that the branch of the church near the village of , was in imminent danger, as the main body of the mob were gathered at that place. In this critical situation, about one hundred of the Mormons from different branches volunteered, for the protection of their brethren near , and proceeded on the road toward ; and halted about one mile west of the , where they awaited further information concerning the movements of the mob. They soon learned, that the prisoners were not massacred; and that the mob had not fallen upon the branch of the church near , as was expected. They were also informed, that the militia had been called out for their protection; but in this they placed little confidence; for the body congregated, had every appearance of a couty mob; which subsequent events fully verified, in a large majority of said body. On application to , it was found, that there was no alternative, but for the church to leave the forthwith; and deliver into his hands, certain men, to be tried for murder, said to have been committed by them in the battle the evening before. The arms of this people were also demanded by the . We here remark, that among the committee appointed to receive the arms of the Mormons, were several of the most unrelenting of the old July mob committee; who had directed in the demolishing of the , and the personal injuries of that day, viz. Henry Chiles, Abner Staples, and Lewis Franklin; who have not ceased to pursue the Mormons, from the first to the last, with feelings the most hostile. These unexpected requisitions of the made him appear like one standing at the head of civil, and military law, taking a stretch beyond the constitutional limits of our Republic. Rather than have submitted to these unreasonable requirements, the Mormons would have cheerfully shed their blood in defence of their rights; the liberties of their country, and of their wives and children; but the fear of violating law, in resisting this pretended militia; and the flattering assurances of protection, and honorable usage, promised by , in whom they had reposed confidence up to this period, induced them to submit, believing that he did not tolerate so gross a violation of all law as had been practised in . But how great has been the change, in the views of this gentleman, since these people have been deprived of their arms by stratagem; and upwards of one thousand defenceless men, women, and children, have been driven from their homes, into strange lands, to seek shelter from the wintry blasts, remains yet to be ascertained. The conduct of Colonels and , had long proven them to be open and avowed enemies. Both of these men had their names attached to the foregoing mob circular, as early as July last; the object of which was to drive the Mormons from . With assurances from the and others, that the object was to disarm the combatants on both sides, and that peace would be the result; the Mormons surrendered their arms, to the number of fifty or upwards; and the men present, who were accused of being in the battle the evening before, gave themselves up for trial. After detaining them one day and night, on a pretended trial for murder; in which time they were treatened, brick-batted, &c. said , after receiving a watch of one of the prisoners, to satisfy costs, &c. took them into a cornfield, and said to them, “clear.” After the surrender of their arms, which were used only in self defence, the neighboring tribes of Indians in time of war, let loose upon women and children, could not have appeared more hedious and terrific, than did the companies of ruffians, who went in various directions, well armed, on foot and on horse back; bursting into houses without fear, knowing the arms were secured, frightening distracted women with what they would do to their husbands if they could catch them; warning women and children to flee immediately, or they would tear their houses down over their heads, and massacre them before night. At the head of one of these companies, appeard the REV. , with a gun upon his shoulder, ordering the Mormons to leave the forthwith, and surrender what arms they had. Other pretended preachers of the Gospel took a conspicuous part in the persecution, calling the Mormons the “Common Enemy of mankind,” and exulting in their afflictions. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the fifth and sixth of November, women and children fled in every direction before the merciless mob. One party of about one hundred and fifty women and children fled to the prairie, where they wandered for several days, under the broad canopy of heaven, with about six men to protect them; other parties fled towards the , and took lodging for the night where they could find it. We ought to notice the hospitality of one man, Mr. Barnet, who opened his house for a night’s shelter, to a wandering company of distressed women and children, who were fleeing to the . During this dispersion of women and children, parties of the mob were hunting the men, firing upon some, tying up and whipping others, and several they pursued upon horses for several miles. A small branch of the Church, located on the prairie, about 15 miles from , say 15 to 20 families, had hoped, from the obscurity of their situation, to escape the vengeance of the mob; but on Sunday, the 24th of November, a party of the mob went to them with arms, and presented pistols, commanding them to leave in three days, or they would tear down their houses, &c. For the preservation of life, and personal effects, the most, if not all of said branch, have left their houses, and are now in , encamped on the bank of the . A number of families went into Van Buren county; their whole number of men, women and children, being upwards of 150. An express has just arrived from that place, this 12th of December, with information, that these families are about to be driven from that county; after building their houses and carting their winter’s store of grain, and provisions, 40 or 50 miles. Several families are already fleeing from thence. The contaminating influence of the mob, is predominant in this new county of Van Buren, the whole population of which is estimated at about 30 to 40 families.—The destruction of crops, household furniture, and clothing, is very great; and much of their stock is lost. The main body of the church, are now in , where the people are as kind and accommodating, as could reasonably be expected. The continued threats of death to individuals of this church, if they make their appearance in , prevent the most of them, even at this day, from returning to that county, to secure personal property, which they were obliged to leave in their flight. The public may be assured, that the foregoing is a plain, unvarnished statement of facts, relative to the lawless proceedings of the mob. Interesting matter sufficient for a volume, has been omitted, in the foregoing, that this hand-bill might not be rendered too voluminous; but posterity will record this tragedy, which stands unparalleled in the annals of this Republic. With a firm reliance on that God, who never fails to bring to light the hidden works of darkness; and confiding in the integrity and patriotism of those who hold in high veneration, the beloved constitution of our , we submit the foregoing, being ready to meet it, not only before an earthly tribunal, but before the Great Searcher of all hearts.
December 12, 1833.
P. S. After the foregoing was taken to the press we received the distressing intelligence, that four aged families living near the village of , whose penury and infirmities, incident to old age, forbade a speedy removal, were driven from their houses on Monday night the twenty third inst. -[December,]- by a party of the mob, who tore down their chimneys, broke in their doors and windows, and hurled large rocks into their houses, by which the life of old Mrs. Miller in particular, was greatly endangered. Mr. Miller is aged sixty five years, being the youngest man in the four families. Some of these men have toiled and bled in the defense of their country; and old Mr. Jones, one of the sufferers, served as life guard to General George Washington, in the revolution. Well may the soldier of ’76 contemplate with horror the scenes which surround him at this day in , where liberty, law, and equal rights, are trodden under foot. It is now apparent that no man embracing the faith of this people, whatever be his age or former standing in society, may hope to escape the wrath of the mob, whenever it is in their power to inflict abuse.
We conclude with a few remarks in relation to the celebrated mob circular inserted in the foregoing, from the very features which, it will be seen that they meditated a most daring infraction of the constitution of our , that they might gratify a spirit of persecution against an innocent people. To whom shall blame be attached in this tragedy, when they, in July last, boldly made known their determinations to drive the Mormons from , peacably if they could, forceably if they must, openly declaring, that the arm of the civil law did not afford them a sufficient guarantee against the increasing evils of this religious sect; and in their circular they further say, “we deem it expedient, and of the highest importance, to form ourselves into a Company for the better and easier accomplishment of our purpose;” and conclude with these high toned words: “We therefore agree, that after timely warning; and upon receiving an adequate compensation for what little property they cannot take with them, they refuse to leave us in peace as they found us, we agree to use such means as may be sufficient to remove them; and to this end we each pledge to each other, our lives, our bodily powers, fortunes, and sacred honors.”
The public will here preceive, that since July last, the citizens of have been diligently devising ways and means for the accomplishment of their purpose, which they effected after calling out the Militia in November last. In answer to their bold and daring resolves to guard against anticipated evils, we give the following extract from the s letter in relation to this affair, dated Oct 19th, 1833. “No citizen nor number of citizens has a right to take the redress of their grievances, whether real or imaginary, into their own hands: such conduct strikes at the very existence of society, and subverts the foundation on which it is based.”
As regards the approbrious charges against this church, not only in the said circular, but in subsequent communications, the members thereof are willing, that their examples for a period of more than two years in this region of country, should be taken as a standard to convict or acquit. That all manner of evil will be spoken against them falsely, they expect; but, for all unrighteous slanders of their enemies, God will be their avenger. And will an enlightened public condemn an afflicted people, who have been stricken and smitten, should they ask a share in those rights and privileges, which are the gifts of our great Father in heaven, and are guaranteed unto us by the laws of our country, of which they are now wantonly and inhumanly deprived? [p. ]